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  • Writer's pictureSara Strachan

How to Live on a Tropical Island

We talk with Terry, Island girl, shell addict and surfer. How a girl from the Czech Republic found herself living on a remote tropical island, surfing, treading a light & barefoot environmental footprint whilst sipping coconuts and watching sunset after sunset.


Tell us where you’re from originally and where you live now?

Originally I am from Czech Republic. It’s a very lovely country but we don’t have the ocean and it is cold most of the time. That is the main reason I moved to tropical Indonesia to Mentawai Islands, located in West Sumatra :)


How did you end up  in the Mentawai islands? What drew you there in particular?

The first time I visited Mentawai was in 2018 and it was during my culture scholarship organized by Indonesian Government. I lived for 1 year in Padang, a big city in West Sumatra. From there it is only a 3 hour ferry ride to Mentawai.

I totally fell in love with these islands and I knew I have to find the way how to stay there and make the living there.

And what drew me here in particular?

I think mostly good waves, tropical weather and slow peaceful living. I don’t really enjoy living in the city anymore. 


I see on Instagram you live a beautiful jungle/island life full of surfing, monkey friends, climbing for coconuts and beach bonfires, but how do you earn a living in paradise ?

One year later when I came back to Indonesia with one way ticket and a little bit of savings. I was trying to survive for as long as possible, helping around in different camps and resorts in exchange for food and accommodation.

During this time I met a lot of nice people and in the end I was lucky enough to find online job that gives me stable income and I can work from anywhere. Three years passed and then I met more cool people here and now I am helping with managing a little private villa.


Have you done much traveling before the Mentawai? If so where did your travels take you?

Yes, I traveled a little bit before Mentawai. Every year I was trying to save up as much money as possible and then I went for one month or two somewhere.

I spent two months in Canary Islands living on the roof and hitchhiking when I was 16. I learned to surf in Morocco and went backpacking in Sri Lanka and Philippines. It was fun time!

But definitely I still have very long bucket-list with places I want to visit.

For example hiking in Nepal, food trip to Vietnam, swimming with whales in Fiji, visit Chile and Patagonia, Polar expedition on the boat, live in the van in Australia and New Zealand and much more haha.

But for now my main focus is Mentawai :)


Mentawais are known for epic surf conditions which aren’t great for beginners. So where did you learn to surf and would you say that the surf isn’t suited for beginners?

Yes, I would definitely not recommend Mentawai for someone who has never tried surfing before. Go to learn at beach breaks first, get confident in the water, learn how to read the Ocean and get familiar with surfing etiquette.

But, Mentawai is not only about hollow tubes, intermediate surfers have also a lot of fun here, but you must have some basics before you paddle out.

As I mentioned before, first time I tried surfing in Morocco, then in Sri Lanka and in Bali. But it was always only for very limited time. I think I learned the most when I was living in Padang and I was surfing local beach break everyday after school. 


What are the best things about living on a tropical island?

The best things for me….living close to nature, wearing no shoes, no clothes (well I mean just bikini haha), being able to jump to the ocean every day, enjoying unlimited coconuts, getting fresh fish and just being in the sun. I like to live very simply, without any societal pressures, consumer life, restrictions, regulations etc. And just coexisting with Nature and animals around you. It is very quiet here and peaceful. Of course it is not for everyone. Some people might find it boring maybe. But I don’t see any deep meaning in the things and activities I used to do when I was living in the city.

I will always rather choose to sit on the beach and watch the sunset or the moon instead of going to the parties or shopping malls


Tell us what you miss the most when living on a relatively remote tropical island?

Of course I can name many things … I miss fluffy flat white, Czech bread, good cheese and wine. Or just in general good quality of things that is very hard to find in Indonesia.

But at the end of the day you realize you don’t need these things.

Everything I need I already have right now :)

But I would definitely love to have my family closer so I can see them more often. Hopefully I will be able to travel more soon too.


Can you climb a coconut tree barefoot and collect a coconut from the top?

Haha I wish! I still need to work on that one! it is harder than it looks! Luckily we have great local crew collecting the coconuts for us and they are very good at it.


What does the future hold for you or what goals do you have for the future?

I think one of the next goals is to get a boat and build our own little house here with garden and few animals.

In the future I would love to be as sustainable and self sufficient as possible and have my own little online business.

Maybe also one day focus on what I have studied at the university: sustainability and environmental protection; mostly marine conservation. 

Any advice for anyone who wants to go and live in the Mentawai’s?

Come here for a holiday or do some volunteering to try it for few weeks / months first.

It might look like dream life in paradise but it is not for everyone. Some people go crazy here!

I think the hardest part for foreigners is dealing with locals and Indonesian government. So try it first, learn the language, meet as many people as possible, make sure you know what you want from the life here and try to find your own niche. 


Follow Terry’s idyllic island life through her Instagram account @terrrysss

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